Rumours have it, extroverts rule the world. Well, you know, all that stuff about how they are more successful in life and career, thanks to a proclivity for leadership, communication, and constant search for fresh experiences.
Today, every second person works in open spaces and engages in tons of small talk with colleagues. Kids are told that teamwork matters for career success and job interviews are often treated as the most important and only opportunity for self-presentation.
It’s not always easy to be an introvert. If you are lucky, people will associate your introversion with modesty and delicacy; if not — they’ll call you an antisocial, gun-shy, or an egocentric person.
I Know the Drill
I’d been wearing the “introvert” label since childhood. Even though I enjoyed communicating with people, it was difficult for me to make new friends. I didn’t like the spotlight and spent most of my time with books. When I was in elementary school, the teacher told my mom that I wouldn’t succeed in life.
“Yes, she learns and knows everything but doesn’t tend to demonstrate the knowledge to others.”
It’s been almost 20 years since then. I’ve spent most of them trying to change myself and overcome my shyness. It seems that only now I have learned to accept my introversion and understand it’s okay to be an introvert.
I had spent two years working as a teacher of the French language for high-school students. In love with languages and the process of learning, I dreamed of being a teacher since childhood and considered this profession a perfect fit for myself.
I loved the actual teaching, but when I chose this profession my mistake was to ignore my introverted nature.
All the collaboration and social interaction that took place behind the class was hard to handle. Noisy kids, regular talks with parents (let’s face it, far from all agree with a teacher’s feedback), arguing rather than listening, group work… they all drove me nuts!
Stresses and burnouts were somewhat regular and every time I went to the class, I caught myself thinking that I couldn’t deal with the school environment anymore. It was a kind of work depression, with all the physical and mental problems that it implies.
One day, after I came back from school nervous and willing to kill “those who invented parents’ evenings”, I was discussing my introvert problems with my boyfriend, who in reply said:
“It’s just not your thing.”
And it was that very moment when I stopped and thought about what was MY thing. I took a seat, a sheet of paper, and a pen. I wrote down my hard and soft skills to see what type of work would best fit my introvert personality.
Article writing appeared to be the best option to try.
Today, I’m a professional copywriter and guest contributor, blogging at Bid4Papers and freelancing as a content creator. I do data research, content writing, repurposing, and distribution. I network with influencers in the niche, and my introverted personality doesn’t cramp me here.
The Problem With Most Job Openings
I have a few introverted friends who seriously believe they’ll never succeed in a career because of their introverted personalities. They read job openings online, see something like, “We look for a cheerful, active, and sociable person. Networking skills are a must-have,” and they are ready to throw in the towel.
Sad but true; such requirements still have a place to be in many career opportunities. Do they doom all introverts for career failures?
Sure enough, you can pretend to be a super-active and communicative extrovert during a day in the office; but if that’s the case, then chances are you’ll spend all your evenings exhausted and stressed after work.
So what shall I do to get the job of my dreams? Crucify my introverted behaviour for the sake of my career? Or live in the shadow of my extroverted colleagues, sitting in a dark corner and fulfilling monotonous tasks?
Four Kinds of Introversion
Introverts are often defined as those opposed to extroverts. Maybe, it’s because extroverts spend much time building communication with the outside world? They are more visible to others and, therefore, easier to understand. They are sociable, open, cheerful, and adapting to the environment.
Perfect job candidates, right?
Conversely, introverts struggle to establish contact with people and adapt to new circumstances. What employer would like that, huh? However, the division into introverts and extroverts is tentative: most of us are at different points in the spectrum, combining qualities of both types.
Jonathan Cheek from Wellesley College outlines four types of introverts:
- Social: a person prefers solitude or socializing with small groups, but it’s not because they are shy; it’s their choice.
- Thinking: a person is introspective and self-reflective in an imaginative and creative, not a neurotic way.
- Anxious: a person prefers to be alone because they are unconfident about their social skills, so they feel awkward around other people.
- Restrained: a person prefers to think carefully before they speak or act to avoid impulsive decisions.
Our choice of extroverted or introverted method of adaptation and its further implementation depends on many factors: cultural background, emotional stability, intellectual and spiritual level of development, environment, and context. That’s why it’s wrong to consider introverted personalities as a negative personality trait or a behavioural defect.
Being introverted is coded in our DNA, which saves us from the need to redesign ourselves so we would fit into a system where only extroverts are believed to be successful in life and career.
We can find tons of success stories of people who have been described as introverts, from unsociable Isaac Newton to well-liked Joan Rowling.
For example, a children’s book writer Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, worked alone and was afraid of meeting with kids. He didn’t want them to see he wasn’t that funny man everyone supposed him to be. But his aloofness didn’t influence his writing talent, did it?
Modern realities give us, introverts, a lot of chances: a whole generation of IT entrepreneurs and opinion leaders is headed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose invention helped millions of people to communicate. But those who got to see him call Mark a typical introvert.
Over to You
Do we really need many people around to feel happy? Do we need to redesign our personalities to meet the formal criteria of success? If there is one thing we could learn in 2019, it should be self-acceptance.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that nothing is purely black or white in this world. Similarly, we cannot divide personalities as purely extroverted or introverted. Remember, if you ever feel uncomfortable with your career, it’s never too late to make a turn.
Yes, it’s scary, and yes you will doubt and be doubted — but remember that it is always better to take the risk than spend years doing something that doesn’t bring comfort and harmony with your inner self.